Wafer-scale processing of arrays of nanopore devices
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Nanopore-based single-molecule analysis of biomolecules such as DNA and proteins is a subject of strong scientific and technological interest. In recent years, solid state nanopores have been demonstrated to possess a number of advantages over biological (e.g., ion channel protein) pores due to the relative ease of tuning the pore dimensions, pore geometry, and surface chemistry. However, solid state fabrication methods have been limited in their scalability, automation, and reproducibility. In this work, a wafer-scale fabrication method is first demonstrated for reproducibly fabricating large arrays of solid-state nanopores. The method couples the high-resolution processes of electron beam lithography (EBL) and atomic layer deposition (ALD). Arrays of nanopores (825 per wafer) are successfully fabricated across a series of 4' wafers, with tunable pore sizes from 50 nm to sub-20 nm. The nanopores are fabricated in silicon nitride films with thicknesses varying from 10 nm to 50 nm. ALD of aluminum oxide is used to tune the nanopore size in the above range. By careful optimization of all the processing steps, a device survival rate of 96% is achieved on a wafer with 50 nm silicon nitride films on 60- 80 micron windows. Furthermore, a significant device survival rate of 88% was obtained for 20 nm silicon nitride films on order 100 micron windows. In order to develop a deeper understanding of nanopore fabrication-structure relationships, a modeling study was conducted to examine the physics of EBL, in particular: to investigate the effects of beam blur, dose, shot pattern, and secondary electrons on internal pore structure. Under the operating conditions used in pore production, the pores were expected to taper to a substantially smaller size than their apparent size in SEM. This finding was supported by preliminary conductance readings from nanopores.